lexlingua: (Brightness)

2016 saw me reaching out for many books and abandoning them midway. Even TV shows and movies were fewer in number than I had hoped. However, out of the few media and moments that I did explore, here are the most memorable ones for me:

#1# And Then There Were None (BBC 2015). I find this to be Christie's darkest story (well, maybe besides Curtain and Five Little Pigs). A group of eight strangers with sordid pasts are invited for dinner, and slowly, each one of them is murdered. Suspenseful, with a great star cast. And may I add here, that I finally understand why Aidan Turner has such a big fan following in Poldark? Watch him in this fan-made trailer.

#2# Veronica Mars. Who knew a 2003 TV show about a teenage girl detective could be so cracktastic? The first season was a series of sleuthing assignments for Veronica (and her PI father), overlayed by a grimmer, more urgent plotline of the mysterious death of Veronica's best friend last year. All the characters are well-drawn, with a lot of backstory and depth, and the relationships are well-knit too. But best of all is Veronica's snark. *smirk*

#3# The Visit. Got this 1956 play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt from the local library. I wish I'd found this book when I'd been searching for plays to direct at my school talent show. Claire Zachanassian, now a multi-millionnaire widow, re-visits her dying hometown, and is willing to offer financial help. Except she has a condition -- they must kill the man next in line for Mayor. A cynical, comical and dramatic take on human hypocrisy and how greed can be and often is paraded as righteous piety.

#4# Star Wars: Rogue One. Aka, Episode 3.5. While Episode VII had left me grinning like a loon, this one left me feeling nostalgic. The plot was predictable, the speeches were not so inspiring. Special effects were great as always, though also sorta I've-seen-this-before. But if you have been a Star Wars fan all your life, you simply CANNOT miss this movie.

#5# Oh Drakon, or He's a Dragon. The title is not very inspired, but the movie is a feast for the eyes. Based on a Russian folk tale about a dragon who demands a human bride sacrifice to leave the villagers in peace, the story sucks you in. The soundtrack is as beguiling as the cinematography. If you like folk tales retold, then this one's a must watch. You can find the English-subtitled trailer here.

#6# Arrival. Any "First Contact" movie out there, I gotta see it. In this one, a linguist is called on to interpret the language of the alien Hexapods who land on earth in their eerie egg-shaped spaceships, with incredible consequences. The first part of the movie is especially tense and nerve-wracking, and Amy Adams' look of absolute awe mixed with fear makes for superb acting. Though I did find loopholes in the ending and some hidden geographical biases, Arrival was possibly the most thought-provoking movie I saw all year.

#7# Dark Universe. I saw this short documentary-cum-movie at the Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History on New Year's Eve. And before you think only kids go there, let me tell you -- NOT. It was an amazing hair-raising experience, with the whole archdome of the theatre a giant 3D screen immersing you right amidst the stars. Here's a brief clip:



#8# Thank You. Well, the year's best-of-list is never complete without a Korean drama strewn in. Thank You is a 2007 production, starring my favorite actors Jang Hyuk and Gong Hyo-Jin. The story centers around a single mother raising an HIV-positive child and a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's in a backwaters village, with no respite in sight. Then one day, a jaded, almost maniacal, doctor walks in, and from there onwards, the show is a story about redemption, new beginnings and the joys of simple living. Each of the 16 episodes was so well-crafted, my heart ached afterwards. Thank you 2016, for letting me watch this show. You can watch it on Youtube.

#9. A Year Full of Music. I discovered a lot of great music this year, thanks to Apple Music, including: the creepy Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez, the haunting Can You Hear Me? by Fleurie, the strangely restful Ethiopian prayer music, and the epic instrumental music by Thomas Bergersen (great for writing, by the way). I also attended the Norah Jones musical concert, which was three hours of therapy for the soul.

#10# First Snow. So I have never seen real snow before. Or held it in the palm of my hand. Brr. You know about all those first snow theories? That if you make a wish on first snow, it turns true? Well, here's hoping it comes true for me this 2017.
lexlingua: (Macabre)
What are some traits of the villains we all love to hate? Here’s my count-down of some of the worst villains I have encountered in my reading life, and what makes them tick:

#1/ They were born with the silver tongue.
Well, first there was the serpent in Eden. Then there were the witches in Macbeth, who led a brave man into a mess of his own-making with their self-fulfilling prophecies, and the priest Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Iago in Othello who make the heroes turn against their own beloveds. Oh, these wily abettors, with all their slippery lies and their crafty gift of the gab. Let’s also not forget those serial killers in literature and on screen, who keep us on the edge of our seats as they persuade many a victim into their parlour and there onwards to an early grave.

#2/ Their motives remain hidden, and therefore, more ominous.
Sunday is not the name of a week. In The Man Who Was Thursday, Sunday is the head of a shady organization bent upon anarchy. Thursday is the under-cover police officer who has a mad-paced race to stop Sunday’s nefarious plans and prove that Order will always wins over Chaos. Except… Sunday turns out to be something else.

#3/ They are omniscient.
Like Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis, these villains are everywhere. They have spies in the elitist and most secretive organizations, in the underground, in the police, in the government. There is nothing hidden from them, and this only makes them more difficult to defeat. Imagine what a master criminal mind they make, and if only they could have put it to good use.

#4/ They are deluded they are doing Good.
There is rarely a villain worse than the one who thinks his evil actions are intended for the Good of the people, or even their loved ones. Kilgrave from Jessica Jones is one such character; right till the end, he thinks his coercive, intrusive mind-raping actions are justified because Jessica is his true love and all’s well that ends well. And if you've read Jane Eyre, you will remember St. John Rivers, the missionary who was so very noble, but his sternness, sense of importance and inhuman emotional control made him completely unbearable.

#5/ They could have been redeemed, and sometimes, you want to pity them.
The villain from the Korean drama, Liar Game, is twisted. He is conducting a psychological experiment on reality TV, and as the manipulative, must-be-insane evil genius TV host, this villain is truly matchless. When his real motives come to light in the climax of the drama, you are disturbed, you grieve for the reasons he turned out this way, you pity him. You wonder if he can redeem himself in the next season of the TV show.

#6/ They can be unpredictable, and two-faced. Literally.
Sometimes, they have to make a choice between a an evil act and a good one. They’ll keep you on your toes, wondering what they’ll do next or whose side they’ll take. Loki is one example that comes to mind. Another’s Coyote, in Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. And then there is that whole dissociative identity/ multiple personality disorder shenanigans, with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and Norman Bates from Psycho leading the parade. Which choice will finally be made? Which personality will finally take over?

#7/ Sometimes, their presence speaks louder than words.
They may not have raised a finger at the hero, yet their mere presence in the room is like a dark cloud. You are more terrified of their silence and their stillness than any action that any other character may decide to take. You know who I’m speaking about. That Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities, you just know her knitting is weaving trouble all around. Or the Raven King from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, who has disappeared from England and taken all the magic out with him, yet his legend persists, and it’s downright hair-raising.

#8/ They really just want to survive.
They’ll say, I only wanted to survive. And in a weird sad way, it sort of makes sense. Ask Sher Khan from The Jungle Book, who wants food, and who better than a hate human cub. Or even Count Vlad, Dracula, who is stuck permanently in this human realm and needs blood to live on – so obviously, he needs to crawl down walls and bite human women (why only human women?) to death.

#9/ They crave world domination.
This one’s a no-brainer. We all know Voldemort. We have seen his dark but fascinating evolution from Tom Marvolo Riddle to the Dark Lord in the Harry Potter series. From what I have read about J.K. Rowling, Voldemort’s mission for pureblood supremacy is mirrored against Hitler’s agenda of genocide. And then there’s Sauron from Lord of the Rings, and Darth Vader. If ever there was ambition, these villains have it.

#10/ They thrive on torture.
Er, have you seen Game of Thrones? Have you seen Ramsay Bolton torturing Reek? Or Nils Bjurman in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Phew. Enough said.

So, which villains have been most loathsome for you?
lexlingua: (Books)

Top Ten Gateway Books is a meme at Top 10 Tuesday that's recently become quite popular. Here's a round-up of the ten books that introduced me to new genres and new ways of thinking:


1. Gateway into Historical FictionLes Meserables by Victor Hugo -- I loved my old English teacher, and she once read to us, The Bishop's Candlesticks, in school. Eager to know whether Jean Valjean reformed himself and stopped stealing after all, I raced to buy an abridged version of Les Meserables. I devoured the book in one night, wailed buckets into my pillow and bunked school the next day -- a first for me.

2. Gateway to Literary FictionAtlas Shrugged by  Ayn Rand was possibly my first serious contemporary read. Prior to this, my life had been Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Suddenly, capitalism was thrust at me in the form of a fat book about a legendary guy gathering all the heroes of the world and leaving the loser moochers behind in the dust. I stole the book from my elder brother's bookshelf and never even understood the half of it. But I still loved Dagny Taggart and wanted to be like her. Who is John Galt? My favourite question ever.

3. Gateway into Non-FictionRusska: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd -- I grew up on Russian/ Ukrainian folk tales (and if you have never tried them, you really, really must). So my enchantment with Russia, its history and architecture, and yes, even its politics, has been a long standing one. Then one day, I found Russka in a book store; someone had placed it in the wrong side of the shelves. Non-fiction suddenly became very intriguing.

4. Gateway into Detective FictionThe Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie is by no means my favorite but it's memorable because it started me off on a binge-read of Christie's books. The man in question was cynical, brooding, glowering (at our chirpy heroine), and possibly a murderer. Favorite qualities in a hero for a teenage girl, don't you know. The villain was so likeable, he put the said hero to shame. For someone whose idea of mystery books and detective fiction had so far been Nancy Drew, Hitchcok's Three Investigators and Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers, Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit was a gateway to a whole new world out there.

5. Gateway into Science FictionCordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold -- I have reviewed this book before. Science fiction was a thing of worry, till someone rightly pointed out you don't have to a nuclear physicist to understand science. Well, Cordelia's Honor is less about science and more about integrity, but it still was a wonderful entry into the world of space opera. It also gave me one of my favorite authors. For any newbie, my recommended primer would always be Cordelia's Honor.

Read more... )
lexlingua: (UserPic)
With shows like Desperate Romantics, Copper and Penny Dreadful on my watchlist, I knew the next step was to make a countdown of my 10 favourite television shows till date. Here they are in descending order:

10. Mildred Pierce
Kate Winslet does an outstanding job in this 2011 four-part HBO miniseries, based on the book by the same name. I was drawn to this show because I had seen the 1945 version with Joan Crawford on TCM. The show has been changed quite a bit, to adapt it more for modern audience, but the shockingly mean and vicious greed of Mildred’s daughter, Vida, still evokes the same repulsion as it did then.

9. North and South
Class struggles abound as the industrial revolution zooms through England, as do labourer strikes and lockouts. North and South is a truly exceptional adaption of a truly exceptional 1855 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. But what is really unforgettable is Richard Armitrage, about whom the less said is more.

Also recommended on similar lines: South Riding, Anne of Green Gables series, Catherine Cookson shows, and Lark Rise to Candleford

8. The Buccaneers
This 1995 show is based on a book by Edith Wharton, which lays out the story of four American girls’ fortunes in England, particularly that of the tomboyish Nan’s unfortunate marriage to a duke. A well-made show, though the ending has been much criticized.

Also recommended on similar lines: Downton Abbey, The Paradise and The Forsyte Saga


Read more... )

Funny Five

Apr. 27th, 2013 12:46 pm
lexlingua: (fanfiction)
Nothing feels better than ending a long day at work with a few big laughs. I thought I would put up a list of the top five books that made me hoot like a hyena.


1. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

In a Victorian world where everyone's brimming with insincerity and money-mindedness, Oscar Wilde talks about the importance of being earnest. No easy thing, when even wanting to be called 'Earnest' is going to make our heroes sweat with desperation. This was written as a play, but I personally felt reading the book was far funnier than watching it acted out (in the movie, to your right).


2. Tintin in Tibet by Herge

There are those who will disagree, saying The Castafiore Emerald and The Calculus Affair are so much funnier. There are those who will disagree because they think Herge was quite racist. But if there's one thing that makes Tintin in Tibet so hilarious, it is the number of epithets that Captain Haddocks comes up with in this one. Example to your left.


3. Quick Service by P.G. Wodehouse

No, not Blandings and no, not Jeeves. Sometimes, I find Freddie too silly and Jeeves too haughty. But Quick Service hits all the right notes. As usual, Wodehouse does wonders with his bag of imposters and henpecked husbands all locked up in a country house. It all starts with a beef-manufacturing tycoon wanting to steal a portrait  -- which several other people also want. Mayhem ensues, and much madcap laughter. Sadly, this particular book has not gone through the makeover that the other Wodehouse books have, so I have to put up a really old and discoloured cover image.


4. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

Put Wodehouse in the Regency Era, and what do you get? You get Georgette Heyer. Heyer excels at putting our heroines in priceless situations of confused identities, crazy adventures, absolutely laughtastic relatives and a sparkling comedy of manners. In Talisman Ring, a ring gets stolen, a naive girl runs away, a dangerous smuggler escapes, an architect makes bad drawings, the policemen get confounded, and Tristram refuses to ride in haste. This is the closest I can get to describing the plot. It is making me laugh even as I write it.


5. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronvitch

"What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz?" Who would have thought that fantasy and detective fiction combined could make you laugh so hard? The laugh-out-loud kind of laughter is what Ben assures with his first book. Peter Grant, a policeman in London, narrates his story in first person, and his observations are straight-on and so amusing. His life catapults into the other world zone when one day he and a ghost have a chat. I still have to read the whole thing, and I often read it during my cab ride to office. Puts a cheeky grin on my face some mornings.


So what's your funny five? Do lets share a laugh.

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